Topic: Water


Mining Showdown in Andes <br />Over Unique Páramo Lands

Report

Mining Showdown in Andes
Over Unique Páramo Lands

by chris kraul
High-altitude neotropical ecosystems known as páramos are increasingly at risk in Colombia and elsewhere in South America as major mining companies seek to exploit rich deposits of gold and other minerals. Such projects, scientists warn, could have serious impacts on critical water supplies.
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New Satellite Boosts Research <br />On Global Rainfall and Climate

Analysis

New Satellite Boosts Research
On Global Rainfall and Climate

by nicola jones
Although it may seem simple, measuring rainfall worldwide has proven to be a difficult job for scientists. But a recently launched satellite is set to change that, providing data that could help in understanding whether global rainfall really is increasing as the planet warms.
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Scientists Focus on Polar Waters <br />As Threat of Acidification Grows

Report

Scientists Focus on Polar Waters
As Threat of Acidification Grows

by jo chandler
A sophisticated and challenging experiment in Antarctica is the latest effort to study ocean acidification in the polar regions, where frigid waters are expected to feel most acutely the ecological impacts of acidic conditions not seen in millions of years.
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On Ravaged Tar Sands Lands, <br />Big Challenges for Reclamation

Report

On Ravaged Tar Sands Lands,
Big Challenges for Reclamation

by ed struzik
The mining of Canada’s tar sands has destroyed large areas of sensitive wetlands in Alberta. Oil sands companies have vowed to reclaim this land, but little restoration has occurred so far and many scientists say it is virtually impossible to rebuild these complex ecosystems.
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UN Climate Report Is Cautious <br />On Making Specific Predictions

Analysis

UN Climate Report Is Cautious
On Making Specific Predictions

by fred pearce
The draft of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the world faces serious risks from warming and that the poor are especially vulnerable. But it avoids the kinds of specific forecasts that have sparked controversy in the past.
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Life on Mekong Faces Threats <br />As Major Dams Begin to Rise

Report

Life on Mekong Faces Threats
As Major Dams Begin to Rise

by joshua zaffos
With a massive dam under construction in Laos and other dams on the way, the Mekong River is facing a wave of hydroelectric projects that could profoundly alter the river’s ecology and disrupt the food supplies of millions of people in Southeast Asia.
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As Fracking Booms, Growing <br />Concerns About Wastewater

Report

As Fracking Booms, Growing
Concerns About Wastewater

by roger real drouin
With hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas continuing to proliferate across the U.S., scientists and environmental activists are raising questions about whether millions of gallons of contaminated drilling fluids could be threatening water supplies and human health.
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In Flood-Prone New Orleans, an <br />Architect Makes Water His Ally

Photo Essay

In Flood-Prone New Orleans, an
Architect Makes Water His Ally

As these photographs and illustrations show, architect David Waggonner has decided that the best way to protect low-lying New Orleans is to think about water in an entirely different way.
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A Successful Push to Restore <br />Europe’s Long-Abused Rivers

Analysis

A Successful Push to Restore
Europe’s Long-Abused Rivers

by fred pearce
From Britain to the Czech Republic, European nations have been restoring rivers to their natural state — taking down dams, removing levees, and reviving floodplains. For a continent that long viewed rivers as little more than shipping canals and sewers, it is a striking change.
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China at Crossroads: Balancing <br />The Economy and Environment

Analysis

China at Crossroads: Balancing
The Economy and Environment

by r. edward grumbine
After three decades of unbridled economic growth and mounting ecological problems, China and its new leadership face a key challenge: cleaning up the dirty air, polluted water, and tainted food supplies that are fueling widespread discontent among the country’s burgeoning middle class.
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Canada’s Great Inland Delta: <br />A Precarious Future Looms

Report

Canada’s Great Inland Delta:
A Precarious Future Looms

by ed struzik
The Peace-Athabasca Delta, one of the world’s largest freshwater deltas, is facing major change as rising temperatures, a prolonged drought, and water withdrawals for Alberta’s tar sands industry threaten to increasingly dry out this vast expanse of waterways and wetlands.
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China’s Great Dam Boom: <br />A Major Assault on Its Rivers

Analysis

China’s Great Dam Boom:
A Major Assault on Its Rivers

by charlton lewis
China is engaged in a push to build hydroelectric dams on a scale unprecedented in human history. While being touted for producing lower-emission electricity, these massive dam projects are wreaking havoc on river systems across China and Southeast Asia.
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A Key Mangrove Forest Faces <br />Major Threat from a Coal Plant

The Future of Coal: An e360 Report

A Key Mangrove Forest Faces
Major Threat from a Coal Plant

by jeremy hance
As Bangladesh makes a controversial turn to coal to produce electricity, the construction of a large coal-fired power plant is threatening the fragile ecosystem of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest.
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Focusing a Lens on China's Environmental Challenges

Photo Essay

Focusing a Lens on China's Environmental Challenges

by sean gallagher
Traveling throughout China, from the Tibetan Plateau to the lush subtropical forests in the south, a photojournalist documents the vast scope of the country's environmental challenges.
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The Ambitious Restoration of <br />An Undammed Western River

Report

The Ambitious Restoration of
An Undammed Western River

by caroline fraser
With the dismantling of two dams on Washington state’s Elwha River, the world’s largest dam removal project is almost complete. Now, in one of the most extensive U.S. ecological restorations ever attempted, efforts are underway to revive one of the Pacific Northwest’s great salmon rivers.
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How High Tech is Helping <br /> Bring Clean Water to India

Interview

How High Tech is Helping
Bring Clean Water to India

by todd woody
Anand Shah runs a company that is using solar-powered “water ATMs” to bring clean water to remote villages in India. In an e360 interview, Shah talks about how his company is using a high-tech approach to address one of India’s most intractable public health issues.
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In Mekong Delta, Rice Boom<br /> Has Steep Environmental Cost

Report

In Mekong Delta, Rice Boom
Has Steep Environmental Cost

by mike ives
Vietnam has become one of the world’s leading rice producers, thanks to the construction of an elaborate network of dikes and irrigation canals. But these extensive infrastructure projects in the storied Mekong Delta have come at a high ecological price.
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Megadrought in U.S. Southwest:<br /> A Bad Omen for Forests Globally

Analysis

Megadrought in U.S. Southwest:
A Bad Omen for Forests Globally

by caroline fraser
Scientists studying a prolonged and severe drought in the southwestern U.S. say that extensive damage done to trees in that region portends what lies in store as other forests worldwide face rising temperatures, diminished rainfall, and devastating fires.
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Will Huge New Hydro Projects<br /> Bring Power to Africa’s People?

Analysis

Will Huge New Hydro Projects
Bring Power to Africa’s People?

by fred pearce
A giant new hydro project on the Congo River is only the latest in a rush of massive dams being built across Africa. Critics contend small-scale renewable energy projects would be a far more effective way of bringing power to the hundreds of millions of Africans still without electricity.
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What’s Damaging Marshes on<br /> U.S. Coast and Why It Matters

Interview

What’s Damaging Marshes on
U.S. Coast and Why It Matters

by kevin dennehy
A nine-year study led by researcher Linda Deegan points to the damage that human-caused nutrients inflict on salt marshes along the U.S. East Coast. In a Yale Environment 360 interview, she describes what these findings mean for an ecosystem that provides critical services, from nourishing marine life to buffering the coast from storms like Sandy.
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A Global Treaty on Rivers:<br /> Key to True Water Security

Analysis

A Global Treaty on Rivers:
Key to True Water Security

by fred pearce
No broad-based international agreement on sharing rivers currently exists, even though much of the world depends on water from rivers that flow through more than one nation. But that may be about to change, as two separate global river treaties are close to being approved.
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Beyond Big Dams: Turning to<br /> Grass Roots Solutions on Water

Report

Beyond Big Dams: Turning to
Grass Roots Solutions on Water

by fred pearce
Mega-dams and massive government-run irrigation projects are not the key to meeting world’s water needs, a growing number of experts now say. For developing nations, the answer may lie in small-scale measures such as inexpensive water pumps and other readily available equipment.
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Melting Glaciers May Worsen<br/> Northwest China’s Water Woes

Report

Melting Glaciers May Worsen
Northwest China’s Water Woes

by mike ives
In China’s sprawling Xinjiang region, where the population is growing and cotton farming is booming, a key river has been running dry in summer. Now a team of international scientists is grappling with a problem facing the Tarim River basin and other mountainous regions — how to secure water supplies as demands increase and glaciers melt.
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The Dead Sea is Dying: Can<br /> A Controversial Plan Save It?

Report

The Dead Sea is Dying: Can
A Controversial Plan Save It?

by dave levitan
The Dead Sea — the lowest terrestrial point on the planet — is dropping at an alarming rate, falling more than 1 meter a year. A $10 billion proposal to pipe water from the Red Sea is being opposed by conservationists, who point to alternatives that could help save one of the world’s great natural places.
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On Safe Drinking Water,<br /> Skepticism Over UN Claims

Analysis

On Safe Drinking Water,
Skepticism Over UN Claims

by fred pearce
With great fanfare, the United Nations announced in March that the world had reduced by half the proportion of people drinking unsafe water, meeting a critical development goal five years ahead of schedule. But a closer look reveals that the facts simply do not support this claim.
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The Clean Water Act at 40:<br /> There’s Still Much Left to Do

Opinion

The Clean Water Act at 40:
There’s Still Much Left to Do

by paul greenberg
The Clean Water Act of 1972, one of the boldest environmental laws ever enacted, turns 40 this year, with an impressive record of cleaning up America's waterways. But from New York Harbor to Alaska’s Bristol Bay, key challenges remain.
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A Kenyan Woman Stands Up<br /> Against Massive Dam Project

Interview

A Kenyan Woman Stands Up
Against Massive Dam Project

by christina m. russo
Ikal Angelei is helping lead a campaign to stop construction of a major dam in Ethiopia that threatens the water supply and way of life of tens of thousands of indigenous people. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she explains what she believes is at stake in the fight against the Gibe III dam.
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Colorado River: Running Near Empty

e360 Video

Colorado River: Running Near Empty

Photographer Pete McBride traveled along the Colorado River from its source high in the Rockies to its historic mouth at the Sea of Cortez. In a Yale Environment 360 video, he documents how increasing water demands have transformed the river that is the lifeblood for an arid Southwest.
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On Lake Taihu, China Moves <br />To Battle Massive Algae Blooms

Report

On Lake Taihu, China Moves
To Battle Massive Algae Blooms

by richard stone
For two decades, the once-scenic Lake Taihu in eastern China has been choked with devastating algae blooms that have threatened drinking water for millions. Now, in a move that could provide lessons for other huge lakes worldwide, China is taking steps to restore Taihu’s ecological balance.
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Africa’s Flourishing Niger Delta<br /> Threatened by Libya Water Plan

Report

Africa’s Flourishing Niger Delta
Threatened by Libya Water Plan

by fred pearce
The inland Niger delta of Mali is a unique wetland ecosystem that supports a million farmers, fishermen, and herders and a rich diversity of wildlife. But now, the country’s president and Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi have begun a major agricultural project that will divert much of the river’s water and put the delta’s future at risk.
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In China, a New Transparency<br /> On Government Pollution Data

Report

In China, a New Transparency
On Government Pollution Data

by christina larson
The Chinese government has begun to make environmental records available to the public, empowering green groups and citizens as they try to force factories — and the Western companies they supply — to comply with the law.
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When The Water Ends:<br /> Africa’s Climate Conflicts

e360 Video

When The Water Ends:
Africa’s Climate Conflicts

As temperatures rise and water supplies dry up, semi-nomadic tribes along the Kenyan-Ethiopian border increasingly are coming into conflict with each other. A Yale Environment 360 video report from East Africa focuses on a phenomenon that climate scientists say will be more and more common in the 21st century: how worsening drought will pit groups — and nations — against one another
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On China’s Beleaguered Yangtze,<br /> A Push to Save Surviving Species

Report

On China’s Beleaguered Yangtze,
A Push to Save Surviving Species

by richard stone
The Yangtze has been carved up by dams, used as an open sewer, and subjected to decades of overfishing. Now, Chinese scientists — alarmed by the disappearance of the Yangtze river dolphin and other creatures — are calling for a 10-year moratorium on fishing in the world’s third-longest river.
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Growing Shortages of Water<br /> Threaten China’s Development

Report

Growing Shortages of Water
Threaten China’s Development

by christina larson
With 20 percent of the world’s population but just 7 percent of its available freshwater, China faces serious water shortages as its economy booms and urbanization increases. The government is planning massive water diversion projects, but environmentalists say conservation — especially in the wasteful agricultural sector — is the key.
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Does Egypt Own The Nile?<br /> A Battle Over Precious Water

Report

Does Egypt Own The Nile?
A Battle Over Precious Water

by fred pearce
A dispute between Egypt and upstream African nations has brought to the fore a long-standing controversy over who has rights to the waters of the Nile. The outcome could have profound consequences for the ecological health of the river and for one of the world’s largest tropical wetlands.
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Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy<br /> of Mountaintop Removal Mining

e360 Video

Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy
of Mountaintop Removal Mining

During the last two decades, mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia has destroyed or severely damaged more than a million acres of forest and buried nearly 2,000 miles of streams. Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy of Mountaintop Removal Mining, a video report produced by Yale Environment 360 in collaboration with MediaStorm, focuses on the environmental and social impacts of this practice and examines the long-term effects on the region’s forests and waterways.

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Korea’s Four Rivers Project:<br /> Economic Boost or Boondoggle?

Report

Korea’s Four Rivers Project:
Economic Boost or Boondoggle?

by james card
The natural landscape of South Korea has been largely re-engineered, with nearly every river damned or forced into concrete channels. Now the government is reviving plans for a mammoth water project that would dredge and develop hundreds more miles of waterways and put added stress on the country's remaining wildlife.
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The Damming of the Mekong:<br /> Major Blow to an Epic River

Report

The Damming of the Mekong:
Major Blow to an Epic River

by fred pearce
The Mekong has long flowed freely, supporting one of the world’s great inland fisheries. But China is now building a series of dams on the 2,800-mile river that will restrict its natural flow and threaten the sustenance of tens of millions of Southeast Asians.
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Report

Warming Takes Center Stage
as Australian Drought Worsens

by keith schneider
With record-setting heat waves, bush fires and drought, Australians are increasingly convinced they are facing the early impacts of global warming. Their growing concern about climate change has led to a consensus that the nation must now act boldly to stave off the crisis.
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Report

On Chinese Water Project,
A Struggle Over Sound Science

by christina larson
Geologist Yong Yang has serious concerns about plans for a massive Yangtze River diversion project. When he went public with them, he found out how difficult it can be to challenge a government decision in China. The third in a series on Chinese environmentalists.
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Report

Will the Jordan River Keep on Flowing?

by gidon bromberg
Massive withdrawals for irrigation, rapid population growth, and a paralyzing regional conflict have drained nearly all the water from this fabled river. A leading Israeli conservationist describes a multinational effort to save the Jordan River.
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Alaska’s Pebble Mine:<br /> Fish Versus Gold

Report

Alaska’s Pebble Mine:
Fish Versus Gold

by bill sherwonit
With the support of Gov. Sarah Palin, mining interests have defeated an Alaska ballot measure that could have blocked a huge proposed mining project. Now, plans are moving forward to exploit the massive gold and copper deposit at Bristol Bay, home of one of the world’s greatest salmon runs.
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Report

China’s New Environmental Advocates

by christina larson
Until recently, the idea of environmental advocacy was largely unheard of in China. But that’s changing rapidly. At a legal aid center based in Beijing, Xu Kezhu and her colleagues are helping pollution victims stand up for their rights. The second in a series on Chinese environmentalists.
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Analysis

Water Scarcity: The Real Food Crisis

by fred pearce
In the discussion of the global food emergency, one underlying factor is barely mentioned: The world is running out of water. A British science writer, who authored a major book on water resources, here explores the nexus between water overconsumption and current food shortages.
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China’s Emerging <br />Environmental Movement

Report

China’s Emerging
Environmental Movement

by christina larson
Quietly and somewhat surprisingly, green groups are cropping up throughout China and are starting to have an impact. In the first in a series on Chinese environmentalists, journalist Christina Larson visits with Zhao Zhong, who is leading the fight to save the Yellow River.
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Russia’s Lake Baikal: Preserving a Natural Treasure

Report

Russia’s Lake Baikal: Preserving a Natural Treasure

by peter thomson
The world's greatest lake, holding 20 percent of the planet's surface fresh water, has long remained one of the most pristine places on earth. Now, as Russia's economy booms and its climate warms, the Siberian lake faces new threats.
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e360 digest

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22 Apr 2014: Run-of-River Hydropower Set
For Big Gains, Turbine Maker Predicts

A type of hydroelectric technology known as "run-of-river" hydropower is set to grow 10-fold over the next decade, potentially becoming a $1.4 billion industry,
Hugh Keenleyside Dam, a run-of-river hydropower station
Hugh Keenleyside Dam
according to Dutch turbine maker Tocardo International BV. Run-of-river hydropower stations redirect part of a waterway through a diversion to spin turbines and generate electricity. Run-of-river is considered a more benign type of hydropower than large dam projects because it is a smaller-scale technology that doesn't create large upstream reservoirs that flood ecosystems and disrupt a river's natural flow. Some conservation groups are concerned that problems with migratory fish passage and other environmental issues could outweigh the power-generating potential of run-of-river hydro projects. The company implemented its first project to harness tidal streams at Den Oever, Holland, and it has been operating for five years.
PERMALINK

 

18 Apr 2014: Scale and Extent of Dam Boom
In China Is Detailed in Mapping Project

China is planning to build at least 84 major dams in its southwest region, as shown in a map from the Wilson Center, eventually boosting its hydropower capacity by more than 160 gigawatts. By next year China's capacity

Click to Enlarge
China dams

Dam projects in China
will surpass Europe's, and by 2020 it's projected to be larger than that of the U.S. and Europe combined. An interactive map shows the scale and number of major dams proposed, under construction, existing, and canceled. The dam rush is part of an ongoing effort by China to increase non-fossil energy sources to 11.4 percent of the country's total energy consumption — a goal that has gained urgency due to severe air pollution in many northern Chinese cities. However, the hydropower push is not without its own major environmental consequences, the Wilson Center notes. The cascades of planned dams will submerge important corridors connecting tropical rainforests to the Tibetan Plateau that allow wildlife to migrate as temperatures rise.
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A Personal Note on Peter Matthiessen,
Who Wrote Eloquently of the Natural World

For an editor, the prospect of working with Peter Matthiessen was intimidating. He was one of our finest writers, and he wrote with such poetic precision and lyrical grace that at first it felt presumptuous to propose
Peter Matthiessen
Peter Matthiessen
any changes to his writing at all. That feeling was heightened by his strong physical presence — an odd mix of Manhattan patrician, rugged outdoorsman, and Zen priest (all of which he was). And yet when I worked as his editor on several magazine articles in the 1990s, it was an immensely satisfying experience. He listened Zen-like, carefully considering all my editing suggestions (with him, they were suggestions only), and to my delight, accepted almost all of them. Matthiessen died on April 5 at the age of 86, near the Long Island waters he so loved to fish. Read more of e360 editor Roger Cohn’s appreciation of Matthiessen.
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E360 Announces Contest
For Best Environmental Videos

Yale Environment 360 is holding a contest to honor the best environmental videos. Entries must be videos that focus on an environmental issue or theme, have not been widely viewed online, and are a maximum of 15 minutes in length. The first-place winner will receive $2,000, and two runners-up will each receive $500. The winning entries will be posted on Yale Environment 360. The deadline for entries is June 6, 2014. Read further contest information.
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01 Apr 2014: Delaware River Watershed
Is Focus Of Large-Scale Restoration Project

A Philadelphia foundation is providing $35 million to launch a host of programs aimed at better protecting the Delaware River, which flows through the heart of
Delaware River Trenton
David Olah
Delaware River at Trenton, New Jersey
the populous U.S. eastern seaboard and provides drinking water for 15 million people. The William Penn Foundation, working with nonprofit groups such as The Open Space Institute, says its Delaware River Initiative will protect more than 30,000 acres of land, launch 40 restoration projects, create incentives for businesses and landowners to protect the watershed, and set up a comprehensive program of water quality monitoring that will enable the foundation and its partners to measure the success of their programs and the overall health of the river. A cornerstone of the foundation’s initiative will be its restoration and protection work in eight so-called “sub-watersheds” that feed into the Delaware River.
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26 Mar 2014: New Satellite Tracks Global
Precipitation in Unprecedented Detail

Launched into space late last month, a new Earth-observing satellite from NASA and the Japan space agency has captured its first images, which show an

Click to Enlarge
GPM cyclone image

Cyclone cross-section
extra-tropical cyclone off the coast of Japan at unprecedented resolution. The satellite, called the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory, combines two powerful instruments that allow scientists to monitor precipitation around the globe in great detail, as the cyclone image demonstrates. One instrument, the Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar, captured a three-dimensional cross-section of the storm, with the heaviest precipitation shown in red and yellow. The second tool, a GPM Microwave Imager, observed different types of precipitation across a broad swath of the storm. Together, the instruments will help scientists more accurately predict rainfall and calculate how much precipitation falls to the Earth's surface.
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10 Mar 2014: Arsenic Remediation Project
Will Begin Decontaminating Water in India

New technology that removes arsenic from drinking water is set to be deployed on a large scale in India, according to researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and an India-based water technology company. The device removes arsenic by passing electricity through steel plates submerged in a water reservoir. The electric current causes the plates to rust more quickly than they would under normal conditions, and the rust chemically binds to arsenic in the water and sinks to the bottom of the reservoir. The precipitated sludge can be removed from the tank, rendering the water safe to drink. Notoriously high levels of arsenic, a tasteless and odorless contaminant, naturally occur in groundwater sources in India, Bangladesh, and even California's Central Valley. Long-term exposure can cause cancer and severe damage to organs. A commercial plant is set to begin operations in West Bengal, India, this year and researchers estimate the drinking water can be sold for as little as eight cents per gallon.
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Photo Essay: In New Orleans, an
Architect Makes Water His Ally


In Flood-Prone New Orleans, an Architect Makes Water His Ally
Dutch Dialogues II

No city in the United States faces as grave a threat from flooding, hurricanes, and rising seas as New Orleans, part of which lies below sea level. But New Orleans architect David Waggonner and his associates, learning lessons from the Dutch, have proposed a revolutionary vision for New Orleans that seeks to make an asset of the water that surrounds the city, remaking unsightly canals into an important and scenic part of the landscape and mimicking nature to store rainfall. Waggoner’s firm has been chosen to help develop a Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, a first step in what could be a multi-billion dollar project to redesign the ways in which the region co-exists with water. “To sustain the city in this difficult site in an era of rising seas and more extreme weather, we must convert our necessities into niceties, into desirable places that connect with people and culture,” Waggonner says.
View the Photo Gallery
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23 Jan 2014: NASA Images Show Severity
Of California's Record-Setting Drought

A pair of NASA images, taken a year apart, show the profound impacts of California's current drought, which Gov. Jerry Brown said yesterday poses a major threat to California's environment and economy. A satellite image taken last Saturday shows virtually no snow cover

Click to Enlarge
California drought 2014

California has almost no snowpack this January.
in the Coast Range and Cascade Mountains, and only a modest amount of snow in the Sierra Nevada. Officials say the snowpack is only 10 to 30 percent of normal levels. In addition, California's vital agricultural areas in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, which lie west of the Sierra Nevada, are a parched brown. By contrast, a satellite image taken in January 2013 shows significant snowpack in the mountains and a swath of green in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys. Half of California's yearly precipitation falls between December and February, so January's record dry conditions threaten water supplies for the entire year.
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23 Dec 2013: Russian Oil Giant Becomes
First in World to Pump Oil From Arctic

The Russian national oil company Gazprom has begun drilling for oil at a highly contested site in the Arctic. The oil field, an offshore site in the Russian Arctic known as Prirazlomnoye, drew international attention in September when a contingent of Greenpeace members boarded the platform in protest and were jailed in Russia for two months before being granted amnesty last week. The project, which is several years behind schedule, is the first in Russian history aimed at "developing the resources of the Arctic shelf," Gazprom said. Environmental groups say that no company has the technology or resources to deal with a massive oil spill in the harsh conditions of the Arctic Ocean. The oil giant Shell had planned exploratory drilling in the Arctic off the coast of Alaska, but temporarily shelved those plans last year after a series of mishaps. Gazprom says it has taken all necessary precautions to deal with a spill, Mongabay reports.
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07 Nov 2013: Grand Canyon 'Zombie'
Uranium Mine on Hold for Financial Reasons

The reopening of a major uranium mine near the Grand Canyon has been put on hold until December 2014 or whenever a federal court rules on the proposed revival of the mine, the Guardian reports. The owner of Canyon
South Rim of Grand Canyon
Colin.faulkingham/Wikimedia
Grand Canyon's South Rim
Mine, Energy Fuels Resources, cited falling uranium prices, which have reached a near five-year low, and litigation costs as reasons for the decision. In April the Canyon Mine and other so-called "zombie mines" were given federal approval to reopen based on their rights at the time they closed, despite an Obama administration ban on new hard-rock mines in areas larger than 1 million acres. Grand Canyon National Park officials say reopening the Canyon Mine, located six miles from the popular South Rim entrance, and other uranium mines could affect scarce water sources in the area. Environmental groups and the Havasupai Indian tribe sued the U.S. government in 2012, contending the environmental review of the mine's impacts was outdated.
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Photo Essay: Focusing a Lens on
China's Environmental Challenges


China environmental problems
Sean Gallagher

Photographer Sean Gallagher has lived and worked in China for seven years, visiting nearly all of its provinces as he documents the country’s daunting ecological problems and its widely varied landscapes. In a Yale Environment 360 photo essay, the Beijing-based photojournalist chronicles China’s widespread water and air pollution, the battle against the desertification that has spread across the country's northern regions, and the threats to the nation's biodiversity.
View the photo gallery.
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08 Oct 2013: Eighty Percent of Ecosystems
Vulnerable to Climate Change, Study Finds

Climate change could significantly transform up to 86 percent of the planet's land ecosystems under worst-case global warming scenarios, according to researchers at Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. That estimate is based on a 4 to 5 degree C temperature increase by the year 2100 — a scenario that is plausible given many nations' reluctance to enact greenhouse gas emissions limits, the researchers say. Even if global temperatures are kept to 2 degrees C above preindustrial levels, 20 percent of natural land ecosystems are at risk of moderate or major changes, especially high-altitude and high-latitude regions. Such changes could include boreal forests being transformed into temperate savannas, trees growing in thawed Arctic tundra, or even a dieback of some of the world's tropical forests. "Essentially, we would be leaving the world as we know it," says Sebastian Ostberg, who led the research. "The findings clearly demonstrate that there is a large difference in the risk of global ecosystem change under a scenario of no climate change mitigation compared to one of ambitious mitigation," he added.
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02 Oct 2013: Excess Radioactivity and Metals
Found in Pennsylvania Fracking Wastewater

Researchers found high levels of radioactivity, metals, and salts in sediments and water downstream from a Pennsylvania facility that treats fracking wastewater. Radioactivity levels downstream of the treatment plant were about 200 times higher than in surrounding areas, and concentrations of some salts and metals were also higher than background levels, the scientists reported in Environmental Science and Technology. The Duke University team traced the radioactivity's source to the Marcellus Shale formation, which is naturally high in salts and radioactivity. Although the treatment plant removes more than 90 percent of the radioactive metals radium and barium, the effluent still exceeds federal limits for radioactive waste disposal, the researchers said. Plants, fish, and other organisms near the facility are potentially at risk for radium bioaccumulation. Downstream, carcinogenic byproducts can form when water with excess levels of the salt bromide mixes with disinfection chemicals at municipal drinking water plants, the study said. A mile downstream from the treatment facility, bromide levels were 40 times higher than background levels, the researchers reported.
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24 Sep 2013: Major Wind and Rain Belts
Could Shift North as Earth Warms

A study of warming at the end of the last Ice Age indicates that future warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels will likely shift the planet's rain and wind belts northward, say researchers at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Regions that are already dry — including the western U.S., western China, and the Middle East — could grow drier, while equatorial Africa and monsoonal Asia may become wetter. An examination of data such as polar ice cores and ocean sediments shows that as the last Ice Age ended 15,000 years ago, northward shifts in the tropical rain belt and mid-latitude jet stream occurred as the temperature gradient between the northern and southern hemispheres increased. That sharper gradient came about because the land mass-dominated northern hemisphere warmed faster than the ocean-dominated southern hemisphere, according to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers say a similar pattern could develop in years to come as the northern hemisphere continues to warm faster than the southern hemisphere.
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17 Sep 2013: Major Company Backs Out
Of Pebble Mine Project in Alaska

A major mining company has withdrawn its participation in Alaska's Pebble Mine project, dimming the controversial project's prospects of moving forward, the Anchorage Daily News reports. The British Mining giant, Anglo American, said it was pulling out of the project to focus on lower-risk mining ventures — a tacit acknowledgment that opposition among fishermen,
Bristol Bay watershed
commerce.gov
Bristol Bay watershed
indigenous groups, and environmentalists was making it increasingly unlikely that the Pebble Mine would receive the necessary state and federal approvals. The opposition is focused on concerns that the massive gold and copper mine would threaten Bristol Bay and endanger the world's richest wild salmon fishery. Northern Dynasty Minerals, a Canadian company, continues to back the project, but a company official said the firm would have trouble moving forward without a partner. 
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11 Sep 2013: Arsenic in Vietnam Groundwater
Slowly Moving Toward Hanoi, Study Says

As the population and water needs of Hanoi mushroom, the capital city of Vietnam is slowly drawing poisonous arsenic into the aquifer that supplies its drinking water, say researchers from the U.S. and Vietnam. Water contaminated with arsenic has moved more than a mile
Red River Vietnam
Benjamin Bostick/LDEO
The Red River
closer to the aquifer over the last 40 to 60 years, the researchers report in Nature, due to the city's increasing water demand; municipal pumping in Hanoi doubled between 2000 and 2010. The good news, says lead researcher Alexander van Geen of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, is the contaminated groundwater "is not moving as fast as we had feared it might.” This will give Hanoi officials time, perhaps decades, to determine how to best deal with the problem. The study also determined why arsenic is leaching into the groundwater: As water containing arsenic mixes with high levels of organic carbon from the Red River and other surrounding aquifers, the chemistry changes and arsenic dissolves in the water.
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05 Sep 2013: Swapping Corn for Rice Benefits
China's Miyun Reservoir, Study Shows

After years of contamination and decreasing output, China's Miyun Reservoir is rebounding, say researchers from China and the U.S. Rice farming had contaminated and tapped the reservoir, which lies 100 miles north of Beijing and is the main water source for the city's 20 million inhabitants. But four years ago, the Chinese government began paying farmers to grow corn instead, which requires less water and leads to less fertilizer and sediment runoff than rice farming. Now, water quality tests show that fertilizer runoff declined sharply, the researchers found, and the amount of reservoir water available to Beijing and surrounding areas has increased. Farmers also made more money growing corn instead of rice and were able to spend less time tending their crops, the study concluded.
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How High Tech Is Helping
Bring Clean Water to Rural India

Social entrepreneur Anand Shah runs Sarvajal, a company that seeks to bring clean water to remote villages in India by deploying solar-powered “water
Anand Shah interview
Anand Shah
ATMs,” which dispense water to residents with the swipe of a prepaid smart card. Sarvajal, launched in 2008, currently serves more than 110,000 rural customers and is now is moving into India’s urban slums, where people often spend hours a day waiting for trucks to deliver clean water. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Shah talks about the challenges of expanding access to clean water in India and the lessons his company has learned from its first five years of operation. “The solutions came from what we actually saw in the field, rather than being invented elsewhere,” he says, “and that’s what makes it work.”
Read the interview.
PERMALINK

 

23 Aug 2013: Arsenic in Groundwater
May Affect 20 Million People in China

Nearly 20 million people in China are exposed to high levels of arsenic in the water they use for drinking and cooking, a new model based on geological and

Click to enlarge
Groundwater arsenic in China

Eawag, Science
Groundwater arsenic in China
hydrological data and well samples shows. The model predicts high arsenic concentrations (10 micrograms per liter or greater) across more than 580,000 square kilometers, according to Chinese and Swiss researchers, who published their findings in Science. Researchers had long known that some regions had high arsenic concentrations, but it would have taken several decades to test the millions of wells in China. The new prediction combined the most recent tests with data about the underlying geology, soil characteristics, and topography.
PERMALINK

 

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